Links 5/10/11

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Victory! ALDF Wins Freedom for Tony the Truck Stop Tiger Care2 (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Unnatural selection: Wily weeds outwit herbicides New Scientist (hat tip reader Robert M)

Farm Antibiotics: ‘Pig Staph’ in a Daycare Worker Wired (hat tip reader Robert M)

Open Your Eyes to the Hidden Night Sky Survey (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Five roboethical principles – for humans NewScientist (hat tip Dr. Kevin)

Deadly Silence on Fukushima Huffington Post (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

The Drudge Report Drives More Top News Traffic than Twitter or Facebook, Study Finds PBS (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Osama bin Laden mission agreed in secret 10 years ago by US and Pakistan Guardian (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

While Bahrain demolishes mosques, U.S. stays silent McClatchy

Twitter Posts Mean ‘Nightmare’ Enforcing U.K. Super-Injunctions Bloomberg. Note our Richard Smith helped start this trend with his RBS post!

The moral of this PPI tale: don’t rip off your customers Nils Prately, Guardian. Richard Smith notes:

Apparently they think ripping off their customers needs to be against a specific rule, otherwise it’s OK by them. And yet they think “no retrospection” is a principle to be held out for.

Laughably flagrant: rules when it suits them, and principles when it doesn’t.

S&P moves to cut Greek credit rating Financial Times

Merkel Allies Signal Germany Backs Off Greek Restructuring Push Bloomberg

Wisconsin-Style Occupation Planned in California The Nation (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

In rural Illinois, money talks, defendants walk McClatchy (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

US Chamber Freaks Out Over Modest Obama Proposal That Would Require Gov’t Contractors To Disclose Campaign Spending AlterNet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Repudiation of Gold Indexation, Cramdown, Legal Impediments to Monetary Policy Outcomes Mike Konczal

Consistency Ed Harrison

The quality of muddling Steve Waldman

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-05-10 at 5.59.11 AM

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  1. Anon

    This person in Japan is providing a useful commentary on press reports in Japan on the ongoing Fukushima nightmare, including providing excellent translations from Japanese-only news sources.

    For example, this story about radioactive sewage:

    At one facility in Horikawa-machi in Fukushima City, 446,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium were found. At Koriyama, it was 26,400 becquerels per kilogram.

    They say they’ll have to find out where the sludge has gone. And at one of them, the facility in Fukushima City above, radioactive sludge may have nowhere else to go but spill into the river as soon as May 20.

    (Koriyama City is 59km W of Fukushima #1, and Fukushima City, 62km NW of the plant.)

    Some of this sludge has evidently been recycled into cement, but that has been halted now:

    Koriyama alone sold 928 tons of radioactive sewage sludge in 50 days to Sumitomo Osaka Cement. I hate to think how much total that these treatment facilities in Fukushima may have sold.

    There’s no way of containing this stuff if it’s in the ground water/sewerage system.

  2. DownSouth

    Re: “Osama bin Laden mission agreed in secret 10 years ago by US and Pakistan”

    From the article:

    The agreement is consistent with Pakistan’s unspoken policy towards CIA drone strikes in the tribal belt, which was revealed by the WikiLeaks US embassy cables last November. In August 2008, Gilani reportedly told a US official: “I don’t care if they do it, as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”
    As drone strikes have escalated in the tribal belt over the past year, senior civilian and military officials issued pro forma denunciations even as it became clear the Pakistani military was co-operating with the covert programme.

    So Pakistani officials, whether with a wink and a nod or more hands-on involvement, are playing a role in the murder of innocent Pakistanis.

    This is not the first time that a government has participated in the murder of its own innocents. Adam Curtis, in his film The Power of Nightmares, recounts how (beginning at minute 44:00 of Part 2) Algerian government officials participated in the murder of innocent Algerians by encouraging Islamist terrorist attacks:

    In Algeria, this logic [of Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri] went completely out of control. The Islamist revolutionary groups killed thousands of civilians because they believed all these people had become corrupted…

    In turn, the generals running Algeria infiltrated the revolutionary groups. They told their agents to persuade the Islamists to push the logic even further, to kill even more people. This would create such horror that the groups would lose any remaining support and the generals could use the fear and revulsion to increase their grip on power.

    What is new here is that in Pakistan, the Americans are now fulfilling the role once played by Islamic terrorists.

    1. DownSouth

      Gilani is what was referred to in San Antonio’s Mexican-American political circles as a “junk yard dog.”

      When an intruder enters the junk yard, the “junk yard dog” barks loudly, creating the appearance that he will tackle the intruder. Then he goes back to sleep, allowing the intruder to take whatever he wants from the junk yard.

      1. DownSouth

        The reality is that no one has a clue who or what to believe.

        The appropriate term to describe the situation is surrealism:

        surrealism: the principles, ideals, or practice of producing fantastic or incongruous imagery or effects in art, literature, or theater by means of unnatural juxtaposistion and combinations

        1. DownSouth

          And please note that the revelation was not “just now,” but last Novemeber and was part of a Wikileaks release.

          1. Parvaneh Ferhadi

            Well, ok. But I wasn’t aware this information had been leaked to the general public before ‘now’. It may have been in the hands of wikileaks or some news media before ‘now’, though.

          2. Parvaneh Ferhadi

            I am not talking about Gilani and the drone attacks, that I was aware of,and that was indeed widely reported, as you point out.

            I am talking about Musharraf and his alleged deal with the Bush adminsitration. That’s a separate item from the drone strike and concerns raids inside Pakistan – not drone strikes – and hasn’t been reported as far as I am aware.

    2. paper mac

      “What is new here is that in Pakistan, the Americans are now fulfilling the role once played by Islamic terrorists.”

      The US has been deeply bound up in the financing, arming, and training of terrorist groups in Pak, both Islamic and nationalist, for literally decades. It has also been dealing with the blowback from those activities for about the same length of time. OBL’s execution is just another passing episode in the complex and violent conflict economy that the US has been creating in central Asia throughout that period. That his execution was conducted by American troops, for the benefit of the American public, rather than ISI bagmen or the Pakistani army, is pretty much the only thing that stands out about it. For many of the people of central Asia, direct and indirect American support for violent groups like the Afghan mujahedin, Jundullah, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Balochistan Liberation Army, etc etc, coupled with violent reprisals when these organisations inevitably get out of line, has been a fact of life for as long as they’ve been alive.

      1. DownSouth

        papaer mac said: “That his execution was conducted by American troops, for the benefit of the American public, rather than ISI bagmen or the Pakistani army, is pretty much the only thing that stands out about it.”

        Two questions:

        1) You don’t see the shift from “the financing, arming, and training of terrorist groups” to the actual conduct of terrorism as being a rather significant change?

        2) Why do you believe that Bin Laden’s execution was done “for the benefit of the American people”?

        1. paper mac

          I don’t see it as a significant change, no. There’s no particular difference for me between troops being inserted by helicopter to murder a man and the 7 year long drone bombing campaign conducted in Pakistan, or the use of CIA agents to off ISI agents who go off the reservation. To be honest, the financing is far more pernicious to me than some American kid murdering an old man in Abottabad. The amount of damage that’s been done to the political economy of the Af/Pak region by American “aid and reconstruction” money (inevitably funnelled into the conflict & narcotics economy of the region) is almost inconceivable. The insanely counterproductive empowerment of a variety of thugs and warlords in Afghanistan, the military/ISI/terrorism complex in Pakistan, and the resultant sidelining of moderates in both nations, has ensured that there will be no peace there for decades to come, regardless of whether or not American troops are running amok in the near-term.

          With regard to your second question, my feeling is that the use of American troops in helicopters to kill Bin Laden was, in large part, for the spectacle of it all (as opposed to, say, drone-bombing him, or using the Pakistani military to kill him, or having the CIA slip in and murder him). I doubt the political payoff from a drone-killing of Bin Laden would be anything like having The Troops “take him out” in a big, noisy way.

          1. Skippy

            paper mac said “having The Troops “take him out” in a big, noisy way.”—-

            Validating the Hollywood psych-op they so desperately needed to construct is a tasking chore. I would submit that they knew it was a soft target, imagine the blow back if things went wrong…eh…the slaughter of Americas best…[?????].

            Concur with your observations, that the operations as a hole (af/pak), is one ginormous fuuk up with the only objective being too enrich a few. The lives lost on both sides combatant and civilian down the road will far out weigh what ever reward they think they have secured.

            Skippy…all of this was avoidable from the start, so you have to ask yourself why. Why do small nations or groups attack the worlds most powerful nation…yeah I know…their crazy.

    3. Abelenkpe

      A friend in India says the rumor there is that Bin Laden died of kidney failure and al quaida decided to let Pakistan cash in on the reward and the reported raid and and burial at sea is US propaganda to justify the expense of the war on terror. Interesting that the story makes al quaida the heroes and the US the fools. What’s the spin in other countries?

      1. Procopius

        In Thailand there’s no spin at all. My wife, who is always after me to watch the news, and has a master’s degree in accounting, asked me who Osama Bin Laden was and why they were reporting his death. It was a much bigger deal a couple of years ago when a story about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was released claiming he was held and tortured in a CIA black site in Thailand. That lasted for about three days, with loud denials that the Thai military ever had a secret prison in Ubon or Udorn or Lop Buri (it was probably the air base at U-Tapao).

  3. Philip Pilkington

    On Harrison’s article… I don’t see it.

    The example: Stranger at beach asks other person to ‘watch towel’ and so most people stop the towel theft whereas they wouldn’t had the stranger not asked.

    How does such an experiment ‘prove’ that consistency is the basis of this action? It appears to me to have a lot more with contract-making and trust — not consistency at all.

    Really… are we going to then explain, for example, a marriage vow or protecting a loved one as an act solely based on ‘consistency’? Come on. These are not rational actions, they are strongly emotive — they are based on the ‘share’ or ‘trust’ values that hold society together. And as long as you didn’t grow up in a crack-den, these values form at an early age and apply — in varied strength — throughout your life.

    This is the sort of reductionist claptrap that rationalistic psychologies come out with all the time. Peek just beneath the surface and you see it for the nonsense that it is.

    (P.S. Harrison, get a new comments system, that one is awful…)

    1. Philip Pilkington

      Another example just to clarify and sharpen that point.

      Imagine I’m a pathological liar. Well, that would mean that I’m a ‘consistent’ liar. But then if I say to the stranger that I will watch his towel — that is, if I form a verbal contract with him — I’ll probably then break it.

      That doesn’t mean I wasn’t being ‘consistent’. In fact, I was being perfectly consistent in my own pathological way.

      ‘Consistency’ has weak explanatory value here. Much better to start from a concept like ‘trust’.

    2. DownSouth


      I agree wholeheartedly.

      It seems that Harrison jumps through some pretty extreme contortions to rationalize irrational behavior. After all, it is not rational, given the assumption that the U.S, Ireland, Germany and France have functional democracies, that the leaders of these countries would implement policies that murder the vast majority of their constituencies.

      So Harrison comes up with this consistency theory to explain what appears to be the irrational behavior of the policymakers in the U.S., Ireland, Germany and France are governed.

      I don’t think it’s nearly that complex. All one has to do is look at who benefits from bank bailouts, national bailouts and austerity to see what governs the policy decisions of the leaders of the U.S., Ireland, Germany and France. In this light, their behavior is completely rational. No one has ever put it better than the comedian George Carlin:

      George Carlin ~ The American Dream

      1. DownSouth


        I think a much more complex, and interesting, phenomenon is how the populations of the U.S., Ireland, Germany and France will react.

        The politicians have pretty grandiose expectations that with this “reductionist claptrap that rationalistic psychologies come out with all the time”—-rational choice theory, behaviorism, social constructivism—-that they can transform their populations into putty in their hands.

        And in this regard, people like Chomsky have had tremendous influence on the discourse of the left. We saw the minimalistic assumptions, for instance, in the article Global capitalism and 21st century fascism from Yves’ “Links” yesterday:

        A 21st fascism would not look like 20th century fascism. Among other things, the ability of dominant groups to control and manipulate space and to exercise an unprecedented control over the mass media, the means of communication and the production of symbolic images and messages, means that repression can be more selective (as we see in Mexico or Colombia, for example), and also organised juridically so that mass “legal” incarceration takes the place of concentration camps.

        And we get this in spite of a whole chorus of theologians, political philosophers, cultural critics and scientists—-Reinhold Niebuhr, Hannah Arendt, David Sloan Wilson, Robert Hughes, Charles Hockett, Everett Ladd, and many more—-saying “it don’t work that way!”

        As Ladd, who looks at people’s underlying values and attitudes instead of the coherence with which people hold information, put it in The American Polity: The People and Their Government:

        There is a persisting structure to American opinion that belies the picture of a populace helpless before the “engineers of consent.”

        Charles Hockett has also become critical of the structuralist theories that Chomsky put forth in books like Syntactic Structures:

        In his 1968 book ‘The State of the Art’, Hockett writes that Chomsky’s main fallacy is that he treats language as a formal, well-defined, stable system and proceeds from this idealized abstraction. Hockett believes such an idealization is not possible, since there is no empirical evidence that our language faculty is, in reality, a well-defined underlying system. The sources that give rise to language faculty in humans, e.g. physical genetic transmission and cultural transmission, are themselves ill-defined. In Hockett’s view, “we must not promote our more or less standardized by-and-large characterization of the language to the status of a monolithic ideal, nor infer that because we can achieve a fixed characterization some such monolithic ideal exists, in the lap of God or in the brain of each individual speaker.”

        So in spite of the fact that Chomsky has had “a revolutionary effect” on “philosophy and psychology,” as John Seale put it, and the oligarchs and their puppet politicians have put such great faith in his theories, they may wake up tomorrow to the realization that highly complex systems are not so easy to define, predict and manipulate as these reductionist theories would lead one to believe.

        1. Chomskyfrei

          I think Chomsky would be tickled pink to be told that “the oligarchs and their puppet politicians have put such great faith in his theories.”

          1. DownSouth

            Oh I’m sure Chomsky wouldn’t have any problem turning any criticism to his advantage. British linguist Geoffrey Sampson is another long-standing critic of Chomskyan brand of linguistics and maintains that it became the dominant theoretical paradigm for that very reason: Chomsky’s charisma as an authoritative, trustworthy figure.

            At some point, however, it seems that those on the left will have to acknowledge the bottom line, and that is that the New Left has been a disastrous failure when it comes to advocating for economic justice.

            Has it ever occurred to you, as John Diggins suggests, that the influence structuralism enjoys in American academic life answers a deep need, if only the need to rationalize failure?

          2. Chomskyfrei

            Downsouth, I think you need to distinguish Chomsky the linguist from Chomsky the propagandist. Chomsky studied formal grammars and made some assumptions about them in the 1950s. This has nothing to do with his political views.

            Without resorting to confusing terminology, here are some of the problems with Chomsky:

            a.) Weirdness about 9-11.
            Chomsky discourages people from considering whether 9-11 was an inside job, while at the same time telling people to question everything else (including what he says).

            b.) Lack of judgment
            Chomsky doesn’t seem to recognize differences in importance of international events. For example, he condemned the killing of Osama Bin Laden as a violation of international law, which literally speaking is correct, but he gave it the same emphasis as the initial bombing of Iraq, which killed tens if not hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

            c.) Narrow focus
            Chomsky doesn’t consider economic inequality and exploitation very much even though it’s probably more important than the plight of Palestinians, which he weighs in on constantly.

            Ultimately Chomsky isn’t an original philosopher, an original thinker about political issues, or an important person outside of a very narrow part of linguistics. That’s why it’s probably best to ignore him. He certainly hasn’t contributed anything useful to the powerful, which is why even he would find it funny that you said that.

          3. Philip Pilkington


            Directly related to the topic at hand — and generally, for that matter — Chomsky’s critiques of behaviorism were both correct and important. Whatever you think about the rest of his work, these critiques need to be carried on…

          4. DownSouth


            It wasn’t my intent to criticize Chomsky’s political analysis, which I am normally pretty much in agreement with, athough there may indeed be differing areas of emphasis.

            My criticism is in how we answer the question: “What do we do about it?”

            In Chomsky what I detect is a re-emergence of the defeatist distortion which was challenged by the Renaissance and Enlightenment. It seems like he is prone to shrug his shoulders and say: “Oh well, what can we do about it?”

            And I do believe his linguistic theory has a great deal to do with this. American philosopher John Searle wrote in Chomsky’s Revolution in Linguistics that “Chomsky’s work is one of the most remarkable intellectual achievements of the present era, comparable in scope and coherence to the work of Keynes or Freud. It has done more than simply produce a revolution in linguistics; it has created a new discipline of generative grammar and is having a revolutionary effect on two other subjects, philosophy and psychology”.

    3. ex-PFC Chuck

      Jumping off in a slightly different direction, I agree with Harrison when he says that Obama will campaign defending the choices he has made. Furthermore I believe he will most likely be reelected. However 2012 will be another down-ticket disaster for the Democratic Party, with the GOP winning both houses of Congress and garnering full control of yet more state capitols. In short, Obama will have no coat tails and, given the ideological bent of today’s Republican Party, the consequences for the country will be catastrophic.

      The reason for this is that as president, Obama has cut the ground out from under the issues Democrats need to run on to motivate both their base and the large segments of the electorate that, everything else being equal, lean in their direction. Down-ticket candidates will be under enormous pressure not to raise these issues, because to do so will undermine the messaging coming out of Party Central. Thus, many progressive activists will involve themselves in campaigns at best half-heartedly, and millions of left-leaning centrist voters won’t bother to show up at the polls. So, while Obama wins reelection by appealing to the knee-jerk Democrats (there are some who fit this profile as described by Harrison, but by no means all) and the multitudes in the right-leaning electorate who realize that the Republican candidates are crazy, the blood-smelling flock-fleecers of the right will have no trouble herding their sheep to the polls in unprecedented numbers to take over Congress and the states.

      The only way the Democrats can avoid this fate is if a credible person who can campaign with genuine fire in his or her belly comes forward to challenge Obama for the nomination. Sadly I can’t think of who that might be. Dennis Kucinich and Russ Feingold come to mind, as do Alan Grayson and Eliot Spitzer. Although each has his positives, they all have significant negatives as well. If this is going to happen it must occur soon so as to give cover to down-ticket candidates who will need to distance themselves from the administration. Even if the challenger doesn’t win, played correctly it can have a salutary effect on the party and the electorate.

      There has to be a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party, or there may well no longer be one.

      1. Chomskyfrei

        “There has to be a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party, or there may well no longer be one.”

        …at which point the world’s smallest violin will play a dirge.

      2. Charlie

        The conservatives already control both houses of congress, the supreme court, the pentagon, all the spy agencies, the fed, the treasury, the white house, all the corporations and the next election will only change the faces not the agenda.

  4. liberal

    Dean Baker claims today that a Federal debt default wouldn’t destroy the “real” economy (since real physical and human capital would be intact), but would bankrupt Wall St.

    I can see the first, but why would it necessarily bankrupt Wall St?

    1. Philip Pilkington

      Isn’t it because all contracts in dollars would then be dragged into the default too? Isn’t that what happened in Argentina?

      I’m not 100% on this — I might well be wrong.

    2. Philip Pilkington

      Maybe it has something to do with holding debt in foreign currency?

      “As a result of the Argentine peso devaluation at the beginning of 2002, and some of the regulatory policies of the Argentine government since then, Argentine companies that incurred debt denominated in U.S. dollars on the international financial markets have suffered grave difficulties. Most of these companies defaulted, and while some of them have remedied their default, many others still remain in such condition.”

  5. Parvaneh Ferhadi

    While Bahrain demolishes mosques, U.S. stays silent McClatchy
    «Authorities have held secret trials where protesters have been sentenced to death, arrested prominent mainstream opposition politicians, jailed nurses and doctors who treated injured protesters, seized the health care system that had been run primarily by Shiites, fired 1,000 Shiite professionals and canceled their pensions, detained students and teachers who took part in the protests, beat and arrested journalists, and forced the closure of the only opposition newspaper.

    Nothing, however, has struck harder at the fabric of this nation, where Shiites outnumber Sunnis nearly 4 to 1, than the destruction of Shiite worship centers.

    The Obama administration has said nothing in public about the destruction.

    Bahrain — and its patron, Saudi Arabia — are longtime U.S. allies, and Bahrain hosts the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

    Members of the Shiite opposition assembled a list of 27 mosques and other religious structures demolished or damaged in the crackdown. A tour by McClatchy of several townships suggests the number of buildings destroyed is far greater.

    The demolitions are carried out daily, Shiite leaders say, with work crews often arriving in the dead of night, accompanied by police and military escorts. In many cases, the workers have hauled away the rubble, leaving no trace, before townspeople awake.

    Bahrain’s minister of justice and Islamic affairs, Sheikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdulla al Khalifa, defended the demolitions in an interview, claiming that any mosque demolished had been built illegally, recently, and without permission.

    “These are not mosques. These are illegal buildings,” he said.»

    Saudi Arabia – and Salafis in general – do not even recognise Shiites as Muslims.

    1. Francois T

      Destroying Shiite mosques like that is a colossally stupid move IMO.

      Best way to guarantee a bloody uprising down the line; and it’s not a matter of if, but when.

  6. LeeAnne

    Good work Richard and Yves,

    “Super-injunctions bar U.K. media from writing about extra- marital affairs or identifying celebrities involved.”

    Amazing! what we ordinary people, trying to live decent lives are forced to put up with by this scum powers that be. Its not enough that the corporate media has as its main profit making enterprise celebrities made and unmade at the top of its agenda. We are all to bow down, incorporate into our legal system, the support of this corruption of the young, the naive, the inexperienced, the poorly educated, and the bored. Add to that, people who can no longer afford the price of a newspaper.

    Celebrity is what celebrity does. that’s a period.

    I read Richard’s excellent RBS article with this thought uppermost: that bloggers are unintentionally perpetuating the most insideous of all modern propaganda tactics; that of naming. The kind of official renaming supported and perpetuated by the likes of the New York Times in its capacity as tool for the whims of power; in this case, enabling the names of corporations to change into virtual anonymity.

    Words accrue meaning and history by imagery. Imagining RBS is a bit difficult, as opposed to the imagery of RBS a/k/a The Royal Bank of Scotland Group (yes, we can look it up -but that doesn’t quite cut it). We should be spelling out the full name where there is space on the Internet when reporting on these organizations; all of them; the IMF, the BIS, etc. JPMorgan Chase, rather than only JPMorgan etc. Without the name of its subject in full the purpose of writing the story is seriously diluted.

    What’s that old shibeloth about the only thing a man has is his ‘good’ name? That was true for organizations as well. Everything about this naming and renaming screams ‘what we do is none of your business, we can do anything we like with impunity, secretly, without publicity, without rule of law. Not only that, we can shop around the globe to avoid the laws we don’t like and change them as we go along.’

    The one thing we have on the Internet is unlimited space. So, we don’t need the initials; granted that on Twitter, it is necessary, as in RBS, formerly known as or a/k/a the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Wiki

    Reading Richard’s reporting on RBS would have been a very different experience if the full name were repeated in the article as often as the corporation’s new clothes/initials were.

    1. Crocodile Chuck


      JP MorganChaseManhattanChemicalBancOneMBNABearSternsWashingtonMutual*

      and a number more in the last three years as a result of FDIC resolutions

  7. Valissa

    re: Osama bin Laden secret agreement

    Latest from STRATFOR… U.S.-Pakistani Relations Beyond Bin Laden (subscription firewall,but this is one of their free articles)

    The past week has been filled with announcements and speculations on how Osama bin Laden was killed and on Washington’s source of intelligence. After any operation of this sort, the world is filled with speculation on sources and methods by people who don’t know, and silence or dissembling by those who do.

    Obfuscating on how intelligence was developed and on the specifics of how an operation was carried out is an essential part of covert operations. The precise process must be distorted to confuse opponents regarding how things actually played out; otherwise, the enemy learns lessons and adjusts. Ideally, the enemy learns the wrong lessons, and its adjustments wind up further weakening it. Operational disinformation is the final, critical phase of covert operations.

    Someone here posted this the other day and it bears repeating:
    “All warfare is based on deception.” Sun Tzu

    Taking this analogy a bit further… political campaigns are a type of warfare, wars of words and ideology (spin, PR, propaganda)… and the world of finance/money/economic is also a battlefield. Keeping this in mind is useful when reading certain news topics. Expecting truthfulness in situations where that is not the norm is not reasonable.

    On a lighter note –

    The Marvel comic edition of the Situation Room Osama photo

    1. DownSouth


      I’m not buying it.

      The crucial point here is not merely that the policy of lying was hardly ever aimed at the enemy, but was destined chiefly, if not exclusively, for domestic consumption, for propaganda at home, and especially for the purpose of deceiving Congress. The Tonkin incident, where the enemy knew all the facts and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee none, is a case in point.
      ▬Hannah Arendt, “Lying in Politics: Reflections on the Pentagon Papers”

      It is very easy to fool the people at the start of a war and run it on a confidential basis. But later the wounded start coming back and the actual news spreads. Then, finally, when we have won, the men who fought the war come home. There will be millions of them who will come home knowing how things were. A government which wants to keep the confidence of its people after the war, or during the last stages of it, should take the people into its confidence and tell them everything that they can know, bad as well as good, so long as their knowing of it does not help the enemy. Covering up the errors to save the men who make them can only lead to a lack of confidence which can be one of the greatest dangers a nation can face.
      ▬Ernest Hemingway, Men at War

      1. Parvaneh Ferhadi

        Exactly. The lying is mainly for domestic and western consumption, anywhere else, they don’t believe it anyway.

        1. Valissa

          I can see you are both Absolutists.

          All news around the world is some mix of truth, partial truth/spin, and outright lies. Depending on the subject and the part of the world, the percentage of each will vary. What is much more consistent is narratives (see Ed’s most excellent post on this linked above). People in the US have a certain set of narratives they use to explain the country’s actions. Other countries have their own narratives that cast the US in a different light. A pluralistic mindset can contain all these persepectives without cognitive dissonance. Absolutists seek consistent narrative with a clearly defined good guy vs. bad guy.

          1. Parvaneh Ferhadi

            I think you misread my post. I did exactly speak of that, didn’t I by saying that many foreign people don’t buy the U.S. narrative. This does explicitly recognise that there are different narratives.
            So, whoever you doesn’t buy your narrative is an ‘absolutist’? This seems rather absolutist approach to me, using your own definition.

          2. Valissa

            My apologies for misunderstanding that your point was much more broadly meant Parvaneh, but it was only a short statement and I read it as an opposition. btw, about the absolutist thing, I was referring to the big discussion the other day on that subject in the comment thread at I was purposely stirring the pot on the issue again, curious to see what the response would be. Was meant to be playful mental jousting.

      2. Doug Terpstra

        Hemingway sounds naïve for a cynic who saw war first-hand. Of course to be fair, he didn’t have the ‘benefit’ of observing the Vietnam war, Panama, Grenada, Somalia, the Gulf wars, and the dirty wars of Latin America, to realize that manufacturing consent is effortless for our Machiavellian MIC elite. Their capacity to fool most of the people most of the time is unchallenged.

  8. Valissa

    re: Deadly Silence on Fukushima

    Thanks so much for posting this link, very informative! I have found it very creepy that the Fukushima news has disappeared from the MSM. Also slightly creeped out by the plug for a macrobiotic diet. I have bad memories of born-again macrobiotics lecturing me on what/how to eat, and have heard too many stories about Michio Kushi from ex-macros (Boston area was a macro mecca). Please note I’m not criticisng the diet itself, as I don’t have the knowledge for that.

    Here’s a fascinating article about how the tectonic shift from the earthquake has effected the land there.

    Quake shifted Japan; towns now flood at high tide

    The March 11 earthquake that hit eastern Japan was so powerful it pulled the entire country out and down into the sea. The mostly devastated coastal communities now face regular flooding, because of their lower elevation and damage to sea walls from the massive tsunamis triggered by the quake. In port cities such as Onagawa and Kesennuma, the tide flows in and out among crumpled homes and warehouses along now uninhabited streets.

  9. Hugh

    What the Saudis and Bahraini Sunnis are doing is sowing the seeds for terrorism. Bahraini Shiites now know that peaceful protest is pointless and will be crushed with massive and disproportionate force. The Sunni power structure has shown itself to be corrupt, brutal, and completely illegitimate. So terrorism is the likely alternative. All this should make clear to anyone paying attention the real nature of the Saudi state. It is a murderous regime, period. As with Pakistan, the idea that Saudi Arabia is an “ally” is laughable. The whole Saudi plan for decades now has been to be repressive at home and export their terrorism abroad, meaning in our direction. Bahrain is just another example of this. The Saudis have basically painted a target on the back of every American in Bahrain. American silence in the face of what is happening there underlines our complicity in it. So I should say that not only have the Saudis painted a target of every American there and subverted our interests. They have gotten us to go along with it, that is to work against our own interests.

  10. Hugh

    I was half-expecting a link to Krugman’s most recent piece at the Times in which he talks about the failure of our elites. Sorry, you won’t get one from me. I no longer link to the Times since their paywall went up. Anyway, he talked about catastrophic mistakes, bad judgment, and the need to chasten our elites. For me, reading Krugman is pretty much a spectator sport to see how far behind the curve he is. Yes, our elites have failed as has Krugman who is very much part of those elites. Like them, he continues to do so. It wasn’t mistakes and bad judgment that got us into the mess we are in. These weren’t bugs. They were features. Our elites didn’t accidentally happen to rob us blind. That has been the object of the exercise anytime during the last 35 years, or the entire length of Krugman’s professional career. You would think he might have noticed by now, but being a member in good standing of the elites he dutifully hasn’t.

    1. Michael H

      Hugh said: “For me, reading Krugman is pretty much a spectator sport to see how far behind the curve he is.”

      Excellent. Best line of the day so far.

      The blogs have been discussing financial crimes for two and a half years, so Krugman is finally waking up to the fact that something happened. Not widespread looting by banksters and the government officials who enabled them, no, this is the NY Times after all and that would be unseemly. So it had to have been well-intentioned mistakes with maybe some bad judgement thrown in.

      Krugman is getting there, just give him another 15 or 20 years, maybe when he retires from the NY Times….

    2. Anonymous Jones

      Yes, I agree, it’s a feature and not a bug.

      Yet at the same time, you are ascribing intent to a creature that does not exist. There was no conspiracy on the grand scale you imagine; humans are not smart enough or capable enough to pull that off (at least I have no evidence that they are, and I have certainly been close enough to the elites these last 20 years to have an informed opinion on what they are capable of…My God, some (or even most) of them are so stone stupid that I can’t even find the words to describe the extent of their lack of knowledge, logic and consistency…many are where they are because they are risk-seeking and got lucky).

      Yes, clearly, there are the Grovers and the Kochs and the other sociopaths who had a plan to fool the masses and steal all their money, and that plan is by and large working because the other elites weren’t clever enough (or didn’t care enough) to stop it (they were making more money after all, and that was nice for them). The others tend to be, in my opinion based on my own experience, more delusional than devious about their own rapacity (and it’s not just the elites; delusions about one’s own actions is hardly confined to them).

      So, yes, it was a feature, but a feature in the sense that it is a “feature” that water runs downhill. People like money. They tend to spend their time on potential changes that would increase their wealth. They tend to ignore potential changes that would decrease their wealth. Water runs downhill. That’s the state of the world.

      [By the way, it’s so impressive that you are so far in front of the curve. Stock tips? What’s going to happen to Greece in 20 years? Keep ‘em coming. More judgments; more delusional assertions about your ability to understand the world and predict the future…I love it all. Can’t get enough.]

      1. Hugh

        Thanks for the strawmen and the misreading of what I have said. Kleptocracy isn’t a conspiracy. It’s a construction, 35 years in the making. You could say much the same about the French aristocracy before the Revolution. They never conspired to leech off the middle classes and the peasants. They simply inhabited a construction put together by their ancestors and which they maintained which leeched off the middle classes and the peasants.

        And if everyone likes money so much, how is it that 2/3 of the private sector ends up getting owned by the top 10%? The invisible hand? An act of God? Blind chance? I could see if you ignore the economic and political history of the last 35 years how you might think that our elites are too dumb to steal.

        This is where when someone tells me I’m full of hot air or worse I ask if they saw the housing bubble back in 2005 a couple of years before it burst or figured that the burst would probably happen in 2007, or if they wrote on speculation in oil futures spiking prices back in 2007 and 2008, or if they predicted back in late summer 2007 that we were soon to be hit by a recession, or counted off the various shoes dropping down to the meltdown, or the failure of the TARP or the stimulus, or one still out there from back in early 2009 the likelihood of another crash later this year. So let’s compare records. How did you do?

        I also have to say on some of this stuff, like seeing the housing bubble, I came to late but then I didn’t really begin looking seriously at economics and markets until well into 2007. Nor do I think any of this stuff was particularly hard to see. It still isn’t, but again how did you do?

        1. Janitor

          “Our elites didn’t accidentally happen to rob us blind. That has been the object of the exercise anytime during the last 35 years, or the entire length of Krugman’s professional career.”

          As a janitor to the elites who has overheard quite a few restroom discussions, it’s wasn’t a secret kept carefully hidden. There is a kind of casual acceptance that this is just the way things work, a sense of entitlement and superiority to justify it, and the odd idea to further it tossed around.

          Everyone here is familiar with the innovations of the banks, but what about the real estate developers and home builders? They tacitly agreed to save money on building by substituting inferior materials, hiring illegal Mexican labor, cutting corners on environmental and zoning regulations (while paying off the relevant officials), and converting exurban farmland bought for almost nothing into multimillion dollar housing tracts of land. They did this because they could. They bought the right politicians, and did everything they knew how to do to make money while ignoring the long-term consequences of what they were doing. Urban sprawl meshed well with what the oil and car companies wanted too since everyone would have to drive miles to get anywhere.

          When the oil crunch comes, when the houses fall apart much faster than normal houses, when people get sick from the building materials, when the property values sink even lower, the builders and developers will be far away enjoying their spoils. Everyone else will have to pay the price for their stupid, low quality, over-expansion of cities, and the stress it puts on urban resources and the surrounding environs.

          It was not a conspiracy per se. Anyone with enough money could see how it was done and get into the business then. To maximize profits, they simply did those things whether it was ethical or not. And they rationalized it through their own inflated sense of superiority. It’s as you say, like the monarchy in France.

          One thing is certain. It was not an accident, and was meant to rip people off.

      2. HasOgnak6

        Anonymous Jones said: “Yes, I agree, it’s a feature and not a bug…. [snip]….Yet….you are ascribing intent to a creature that does not exist……it was a feature, but a feature in the sense that it is a “feature” that water runs downhill. People like money. Water runs downhill. That’s the state of the world.”

        On Feb. 17, 2011, Reply #2, commenting at hoplite said: “water runs downhill and eggs are generally round…..This doesn’t happen because ….[there]….. are bad people, it happens because water runs downhill. That is just the way things are. You can quibble about intentions and motives…..My premise is the only one proved consistent with the observed results.”

        Any chance that you and hoplite might be related?

        1. Skippy

          Tide comes in, tide goes out, sun comes up, sun goes down.—Fuaxutopian Rectal Grandiloquent Bloviator—

    1. Philip Pilkington

      Sorry maybe this isn’t appropriate — but it’s just too brilliant not to post.

      Did a Bollywood session musician accidentally invent Acid House music back in ’82?

      Listen to the track too — absolutely brilliant! *Turns off lights and raves*

  11. john

    Yes, please occupy Sacramento. We need to preserve our average firefighter pensions at 120K per year at age 50! It is imperative that city managers from tiny cities continue to retire at 250K per year at age 55! We demand that full-time Newport Beach lifeguards retire at 140K at age 50! Power to the people! The police chief of my tiny burg has just go to retire at 225K per year at age 50, indexed for inflation, plus full medical benefits for life! Rise up and support the common man! All you janitors that are making $13 per hour; rise up and demand that you be allowed to pay more taxes so our assistant city manager of our little town retire peacefully at 182K per year at age 55! I demand a higher marginal tax rate! I only have a 50% marginal rate as a small businessman. I demand to pay more to help the little guy, our local school sup….God how is she going to make it on 175K per year for life! What can I do to help!

    1. Californian

      Where I live in LA, grocery baggers make 50k. It takes that much to live here.

      Houses that you could buy in Detroit for 200K run in the millions here.

    2. abelenkpe

      Small business man eh? And you don’t want public sector employees living comfortably when they retire? Prefer them scrimping by living on a tight budget unable to buy anything other than necessities? I’m sure that will be good for business.

      1. huckabee

        Maybe he’s a slumlord, pawn shop owner or payday/title loan small businessman?

        He sounds like one.

  12. Hugh

    So john, who do you think negotiated these contracts? What legislature signed off on them? Should contracts with firemen be less sacrosanct than those made with CEOs? How big a burden exactly are pensions out where you are? What percent of the budget are they? As Californian notes, what is the cost of living where you are? If 2/3 of the private sector wasn’t owned by the top 10%, would there be more money available to pay these pensions which give you such pain? Are you equally irate that the top 10% own 2/3 of the country? Why or why not?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


      In a functioning democracy, I imagine the more trust the taxpayers have that the government is spending money efficiently, the more they are willing vote for higher taxes.

      If you are in a dictatorship, you might be taxed more and still have less trust in government spending efficiency.

      One way to improve trust in government spending efficiency is to make sure if there are outrageous retirement plans for public officials that they be corrected. Just one bad apple will damage that trust.

      We have enough concentration of wealth by the lords of the universe in the private sector which funds the public sector. Plenty of people are outraged by that. Taxpaypers who are not in the top 10%, who don’t own 2/3 of the country…they don’t need to tolerate inequality for our public servants as well.

      1. Califoranian

        Speaking of spending money efficiently, California spends more on prisons than on education. Someone had the brilliant idea that someone who shoplifts 4 times should spend life in prison. The prison guard’s union is a sight to behold. Because of them California will never have even 1 fewer prisoner.

      2. Hugh

        Talking points.

        Again the real question here is if public sector employees are being overpaid for what they do. It’s important to understand that public sector employees are in the last sector that has significant union representation (36.2%) compared with 6.9% in the private sector. Effective union representation tends to keep wages and benefits up. This tends to benefit even non-unionized labor in the same area. Isn’t that good?

        This brings us to the next issue which is whether the total compensation for those in the public sector is significantly different from similar work in the private sector. That is while unions may keep workers’ wages and benefits from falling even faster, are they really keeping them ahead of comparable non-union private sector employment, and if so by how much?

        We need to keep in mind that john conflates city manager compensation, that is executive level positions, with union rank and file ones. They are not the same.

        Nor does john really give any idea about the size and scope of the problem. What is the definition of an “average fireman”? How many years on the job, what rank, etc.?

        Sure there are unfunded liabilities in pensions, but whose fault is it for chronically underfunding them? The public sector employees or the politicians that gave tax breaks to big corporations and skimped on the pensions?

        This segues back into what this is really about: kleptocracy and class warfare. The “don’t look at the parasitic rich, look at those public sector employees over there raking it in” is one of the oldest dodges in class warfare. Set one oppressed group against another, and distract both from who the real villains are. The real question is not why are those public sector employees paid so much, if indeed they are. It is why are the rest of us paid so poorly and why do we continue to tolerate most of the nation’s wealth being siphoned off into the hands of an unproductive few?

        1. Janitor

          Not only are public sector employees not overpaid in California, they are accepting less pay, unpaid leave and making other sacrifices to be able to keep their jobs. It’s not their fault that the property bubble burst causing real estate values to fall, but they are being told they have to pay for it by accepting less in wages and benefits. Nor did they share in that bubble; they weren’t among the 2 million California real estate agents and developers making a killing, or the mortgage companies, or the banks. The money that was going to pay their wages and retirements for the vital public services they perform went to the same crooks who want them to pay for it now.

          They were attracted into becoming public employees during the good times by the prospect of a steady job and safe retirement. Now the crooks who caused this want to rewrite the bargain rather than give back what they stole.

        2. john

          Mine are not talking points. Just observations of what is going on around me here in Southern Calif. I have equal disdain for the rape of the taxpayer at the hands of the of the banker class.

          It is a fact that cities and counties in California are under a tremendous financial burden due to escalating pension costs. And yes, not all of the pensions are way out of line, but many are.

          Calpers made investment return projections in 1999 that assumed the equity returns of 1995-1999 would continue forever. They than gave away the store to public employees under the guise that no taxpayer contributions for pensions would be required, EVER, due to an ever rising stock market. This was the onset of the 90% retirements at age 50 for safety employees and 75% at 55 for non-safety employees.

          Can you please explain to me why a fireman, who on average (according to Calpers) lives to be 85 years of age, needs to retire at age 50? Why does a city manager need to retire at 55?? These were giveaways from politicians orchestrated by Calpers based on insane investment projections. According to Calpers projections made in 1999 the S and P should be at 50,000.

          One can support and respect public employees and also point out that the current system is completely out of whack. You really need to move beyond the tired rhetoric of Fox vs MSNBC. That type of thinking is a distraction from the real problems we face.

          1. john

            Thank you for that very unbiased source: Calpers itself!! I have been directed to that site by more people than I can count. It is so absolutely misleading I at first thought IT was set up by right wingers as a parody. I guess you do not find it ironic that you accuse me of falling for right wing propaganda and then direct me to a site presenting union propaganda.

            Just one example: it gives an average Calpers pension amount at some very low level: 25K per year or thereabouts. It fails to explain that amount includes workers who spent just a few years on the job and pensioners who retired prior to 1999 before the store was given away. But….buried deep within Calpers own financial report, NOT the propaganda piece you pointed to me, you get the real number. And that figure is 67K per year, on average, for Calpers retirees with at least 30 years service. And that figure is actually three years old. The new number is likely much higher.

            I really have no idealogical ax to grind. I have written dozens of letters in regards to the criminal activity that took place on Wall Street. I have railed against CEO pay for years. I absolutely DESPISED Bush and Cheney. And am appalled that Obama is rapidly becoming their third term.

            I do have to point out the facts as they present to me. I am working my ass off in a small business, paying 50% marginal tax rate, and have no prospect of retiring prior to age 70. So, excuse me while I take a break from railing on bankers to point out that the employees of my city and county work pretty secure and easy jobs and managed to game the local and state politics to get politicians to grant excessive pensions THAT I AM NOW PAYING FOR!. 30% of my city’s general fund is going toward pensions, when CALPERS promised they would never ask a dime from local and state general funds back in 1999 when they made massive pension increases.

            California ran quite well, thank you, prior to the pension giveaway in 1999. I am rather disappointed that Yves and 99% of the posters on this site are so ideological driven than to even to point out, that, maybe, just maybe, the pensions in Calif. are a bit generous you are immediately shot down as a right wing extremist. This site has been an invaluable resource for me in following the financial crisis. I find it rather odd that a generally insightful group has fallen into groupthink when it comes to public pensions. My goodness, I am not calling for them to be abolished, just scaled back to some reasonable affordable level. The average cop in my town, not the chief, but the average cop who retired in the last ten years is pulling in well over a 100K per year, at age 50! This is equivalent to a 2,5 Million dollar inflation protected annuity! And no, they did not put anywhere near enough to fund that benefit. That is why are general fund is being raided to pay for it.

            Do yourself a favor. Go to the state controllers website and review the salaries of city and county workers. Then remember their pensions are based on 70-90% of their final years salaries.

          2. Californian

            I appreciate your perspective, and I disagree about numbers, but I feel that maybe that’s not the point. Personally I don’t have a problem with decent or even generous pensions for public employees, and rather than slash other people’s pensions, I’d prefer to see people like you do better and retire earlier. Why should public pensions be renegotiated like wages every time there is a downturn in the economy when mortgages are clearly not?

            I can see how if you’re busting your butt to try to retire at age 70 (never mind that you’re in the 50% tax bracket), you would envy public workers who retire earlier with nicer pensions than you’ll ever enjoy. And that you have to pay even a dime of that, must be a source of perpetual resentment.

            But theoretically speaking, that’s not how California was working even 5 years ago. Most people in the private sector were doing much much better than these guys in the public sector. If you weren’t then the private sector was obviously not working for you and maybe you could have switched over.

            California wastes, really wastes, billions on things far more frivolous, corrupt and harmful than pensions, and has done so for as long as I’ve been alive. Things were not better before 1999, or 1980 or anytime I can recall. In fact, they always seem to get worse. Either that or I’m getting older. Most of these things are/were positively destructive, whereas with pensions a lot of that money is going to be plowed back into the local economies where it will do some good possibly even helping your business. Before I support cutting a dime from pensions, I want to see some of that waste and graft severely trimmed.

    1. Philip Pilkington

      Ha! Where the hell did you find that?

      Great read. By the time I got to the end I was still waiting for the author’s point — but it was simple: he’s really smart and everyone else, especially Obama’s wife, is inconsistent and doesn’t understand how to dress themselves in a fashion that harmonises them with their peers.

      Screw Naked Capitalism — I’m signing up to the Federal Observer…

    2. Skippy

      Self haters and chicks dig self made men…so manly like Reagan.

      Skippy…yellow *is* an argumentative color, someone with such hyper-sensitivity to the pallet, should advert their gaze…and stick to neutrals.

  13. Dennis

    No link to Economics of Contempt’s rebuttal of your rebuttal of the FDIC’s report re Lehman brothers and Frank Dodd?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      His post was a noisy screed and I’ve been trying to get two speeches done, so I’ve been slower than usual in issuing a rebuttal.

  14. kevinearick

    The Double-Edged Sword / Guillotine

    So, the noose is getting tight around the throat of the Security Counsel empires, the legacy families behind them, and their throw-away dictators, as the banks liquidate the entire global economy to pretend they remain viable, and the clock continues to tick down on those absolute make-believe derivative products tying the closed system together. The churches continue to expound their false religions, false ministries, and false gods, in competition with the non-profit witches controlling the global HR network, who, at least to their credit, are pursuing their own imperative without bringing God into the equation. There still remain some highly qualified HR people out there that can help you if you are stuck in a ditch; seek them out and take whatever job they have, wherever it is, to get started again.

    If there is no real money in Social Security, there is no end to the deficits, and the kids are refusing to pay, what else can Bernanke do? The boomers are in a catch-22 of their own making. They can’t retire and the longer they stay on, the madder the kids get. They helped unleash this monster, and it’s going to turn on them. Funny the ministers are expecting mercy, even as they continue their false ministries, entering into contracts with men to provide food, shelter and clothing in return for their passive participation. What men need is a real job with which to provide for their families, and the number of real jobs decreases exponentially by the day. Computers don’t have mercy, and the guillotine on the pendulum is getting closer and closer.

    Think back among the presidents; how many of them were mama’s boys?

  15. dearieme

    Is there a name – preferably Greek – for the sort of loopy argument that says that since CEOs pillage shareholders it must be OK for public sector employees to pillage taxpayers?

    1. mark

      Public sector employees aren’t pillaging taxpayers. Or do you mean that they are collaborating with the Banksters, CEOs, and Multinational Globalizing privatizers to convert all tax money and public resources into profits, corporate welfare and bonuses for the rich?

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